Step 1: Establish a Baseline Assessment
Typically, summit prep begins with the president and his intelligence community agreeing on a baseline assessment of the state-of-play, in this case the status of North Korea’s nuclear program and Kim Jong Un’s intentions. The intelligence community’s assessment that North Korea will not denuclearize, the open-source analysis that Pyongyang is still proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and reporting that North Korea is taking extra steps to disburse its arsenal seemingly fell on deaf ears.
In January President Trump said that his intelligence community was wrong on North Korea and there’s reporting that he put more faith in Vladimir Putin’s North Korea analysis (which is never unbiased) underplaying North Korea’s missile threat than he did in the U.S. intelligence community’s analysis.
Without presidential agreement on a baseline assessment on North Korea’s program and Kim’s intentions, it was clear that President Trump couldn’t have been fully prepping with his own, home team. Absent an agreed upon assessment, there was no way to identify a realistic goal for the summit or a strategy to achieve it.